Brigid Callahan Harrison won the organization line in Cumberland County tonight in her bid for Democratic nomination to take on party-switching Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-Dennis) in New Jersey’s 2nd district.
In a vote of the party steering committee that followed candidates being called into a room for a private grilling by Democratic leaders, Harrison won by a vote of 15-3-3 over Atlantic County freeholder Ashley Bennett and former congressional aide Will Cunningham.
None of the other candidates – Amy Kennedy, John Francis III and Bob Turkavage – received any steering committee votes.
A full Democratic caucus ratified the steering committee recommendation by a 51 to 22 votes – a 70% win for Harrison, a political science professor.
Cumberland made up 16% of the total vote in the 2018 congressional
“I am grateful that the Committee took the time to thoroughly evaluate and interview each of the candidates and honored that they recognized that I am the best qualified candidate to beat Jeff Van Drew and represent the needs of the working families of Cumberland County,” said Harrison. “To all the members of the Caucus, whether they supported me tonight or not, I remain committed to earning your support, will work as hard as possible to ensure everyone in Cumberland County is represented and that our full Party has the strongest possible voice.
The Democratic county chairman, Steven Errickson, endorsed Harrison in December.
“Beating Jeff Van Drew is going to come down to doing the work, asking for support, taking nothing for granted, bringing people together, and having a true track record of supporting our community,” Harrison said. “It is clear that in the last two years, Jeff Van Drew have forgotten these key principles and NJ-02 is now demanding a change.”
Kennedy called the vote “another closed door meeting, another pre-determined endorsement.”
“We need a process that ensures every voice in NJ 2 is heard,” Kennedy said. “That’s the only way we’ll take this district back from Jeff Van Drew. I’m committed to making that happen.”
Cunningham said he was “deeply disappointed that Cumberland County has decided to endorse a candidate with no federal government experience and no ties to our community. ”
“The county has chosen to endorse someone because she will do what she’s told, when she’s told,” Cunningham said. “Folks deserve to know the truth about these endorsement decisions – county leaders are being told what to do. In some cases their jobs and well-being is on the line. They do not want to face retribution for not following orders from the same folks that likely got them their own jobs. To summarize, their ;hands are tied’ – and the rope that ties them is the machine.”
This story was updated at 6:02 AM on February 20 to include comment from Cunningham.
An earlier version of this story omitted votes for Cunningham. This story was updated again at 3:31 PM on February 20 to reflect that.